Why hello there, welcome back to Rokkenjima! Time to embark on another chapter.
Last time, Rudolf, Kyrie and Hideyoshi got taken out of the picture, but all of them got to in some way get one over on Eva Beatrice before they died. EB, meanwhile, pulled out the advanced ‘enumerated bunnygirl’ strategy, to devastating effect.
We have had some major revelations. Firstly, it seems Kyrie pretty unequivocally has magic, whatever that actually means. Whether she’s fully awakened as a capital-W Witch now? I’m not sure. But yeah, first we had the servants pull out magic swords, now the various Ushiromiyas are coming out as magicians, and I’m sure Kyrie won’t be the last.
So that rather raises the question of, what does it mean, exactly, to be a magic user? Well, we’ve seen the claimed effect of magic—working your will in the world, typically in subtle, deniable ways. For example, Eva Beatrice claims to have used magic to help Eva pass an exam. And we have seen at least one source of magic: strong emotions of various sorts, such as envy. A magical confrontation seems to have a certain emotional logic, like an underlying theme. Sayo’s desire to protect Kanon, Beato’s attempt to impress Virgilia, the envy oneupmanship last time. Arguably that’s just a matter of good dramatic storytelling, but I rather suspect this is closely related to how magic works.
So perhaps Kinzo’s gambling obsession is not so much a statement of how magic in general works so much as how Kinzo’s magic works. Each character will presumably have magic proper to their particular personality, traumas, relationship to other characters? Also it’s worth noting the characterisation differences in the magic scenes: the characters are generally speaking a lot more ‘cool’, acting much more like… well, like anime characters more than a semi-realistically observed rich family on holiday. It’s a much more theatrical sort of register.
Hmm. It seems that I’ve decided magic is real. At this point, the story has put so much effort into explaining to us a particular vision of how magic works that it would be absurd to advance a ‘mundane Beatrice hypothesis’ as a satisfying solution. But that doesn’t mean the mystery is solved, because that was never the real question once we started accepting alternate timelines and declarations in red text. It’s not ‘are witches real?’, but ‘what constitutes a witch?’ (I’m starting to wonder if Battler’s win condition is obfuscated: perhaps he doesn’t so much have to disprove witches, but learn to assert a similar agency as Beato over the evolution of the ‘game board’?)
And helpfully enough, the next chapter is titled The Definition of a Witch.
We open back in the guesthouse, where Krauss and Natsuhi have been waiting long enough that it’s clear some best laid plans have ganged the fuck aglee.
Soon, I suppose we’ll see what Ronove has come up with to stump Battler this time around.
Eva wakes up screaming for Hideyoshi, who is as we know d-e-d—and of course, has broken his promise to stay by Eva’s side through the fever.
Eva lambasts Krauss for letting Hideyoshi go. (She doesn’t really much care about Rudolf and Kyrie, it seems!) The kids and Nanjo are pulled over by the screaming, and propose to go out and look for the expedition party.
I dare say if this was the backup plan you should have gone as a group to begin with. But, well, that’s the claimed effect of Eva Beatrice’s magic I guess?
Nanjo is hesitant, but Eva insists on going out—implying she’ll shoot her way out if necessary!!—and George, Battler and Jessica agree to go too. Natsuhi tries to shut down Jessica, and Eva invokes family lines:
Eva: This is my family’s and Battler-kun’s family’s problem. And I wonder if Doctor Nanjo would come too. Just in case of the worst.
Oddly enough, travelling with Eva is actually probably the safest place for anyone to be. In the mansion we are greeted with a CG, and once again Virgilia steps in to narrate in summary…
The bodies have all been staked, in the head (Rudolf), chest (Hideyoshi) and stomach (Kyrie), qualifying for three twilights at once. Curiously, there doesn’t seem to be a locked room this time? They’re just left out where they fell.
Ronove, standing by, wonders whether to bring up Beatrice’s efforts to keep the corpses looking less fucked up and mangled for Battler’s sake. He decides better not to—not really something Battler’s likely to appreciate.
Battler gets right down to business, which is where we get an unexpected swerve: Ronove declines to axiomatise that “Rudolf, Kyrie and Hideyoshi are dead”. Huh? Ah: it seems Ronove has decided he’s stepping down from being Beato’s ‘agent’. He looks… rather forlorn and tired, I guess? Like this has all gone to shit and all he can do now is cut his losses.
He humbly requests that Battler accept playing against Beato once again. Interesting… I had wondered about Ronove’s motives—to be honest, I thought his whole ‘obsequious servant’ bit was just an act, and being a demon, he’d have his own agenda. But here he seems to genuinely care—quite a lot in fact—about Beato’s feelings. He really tries quite hard to smooth things over; when Battler calls Beatrice ‘an unpleasant (不愉快), ruthless bitch’, he responds rather stiffly:
Ronove: Regarding your point about Milady being unpleasant, I apologize in her stead. I shall obtain Milady’s pledge that she will not take unpleasant actions again.
Battler: ……………………………… …Yeah, right.
Virgilia: …Battler-kun. …I also apologize as that child’s master. I will give her a thorough talking-to, so would you please forgive her just this once?
It’s fascinating that they’re talking as if she like… threw a tantrum and broke Battler’s favourite toy or something rather than like, gruesomely tortured his entirely family lmao. He says that he won’t accept this kind of second-hand apology, and won’t listen to Beato trying to give it… which means he took the bait, and Virgilia jumps on it to push him to listen to a Beatopology.
Beato is like a different person. We’re getting a lot more of the anxious, lip biting expression sprites. But before we can see her apology…
Even as she did that, the game board was proceeding…
Proof if needed that the evolution of the ‘game board’ is autonomous; Battler and Beato are both otherwise occupied but it’s not like they’ve ‘paused the film’ in the meantime. Which suggests that, well, Beato isn’t exactly orchestrating every event we see? Like, it seems increasingly that she’s less of a dungeon master type of figure, and more of an agent who can slip in and out of the ‘game board’ world, subject to the rules of magic.
Anyway, everyone is, as you’d imagine, extremely upset. Narrative!Battler tries to say, through floods of tears, that he ought not to care that much about his family because he’s not as close to them as George is. They have a little “no, you have more right to be sad”-off at each other. Battler reminds George about losing Sayo.
Actually there’s something to comment on here. A very common dramatic device in anime is characters telling each other not to cry, with ‘not crying’ standing in for a particular way of relating to some particular source of grief. I tend to find these scenes… don’t really sit right for me; a different cultural attitude towards crying perhaps. But here, Battler and George agree to have a good cry and stop comparing grief. So that’s good actually. Let it out, boys!
Battler: …Aniki, ……Anikiii…!!! UOOOooooHhhhhOOoOhhhgghhh!!
Yeah, just like that.
Props to the voice actors for really putting their all into the sobbing here.
Back in Purgatory, meta!Battler has a very different affect. He demands from Beatrice to confirm she understands why he says George had the most pain here. This should be interesting…
Welp, she tried I guess. Bless her, she’s like a space alien trying to figure out emotions from first principles.
(Oh, new soundtrack piece too! A peaceful electronic piece lots of quiet little samples of childrens’ voices.)
Battler attempts to explain: ‘Sneering at the lives of people living with all their strength… That’s…what I can’t forgive the most.’ He actually gives her quite a bit: acknowledging that she has to do a series of murders to resurrect. But anything beyond that, the penchant for atrocity, is unforgiveable. His argument is less of a like, utilitarian argument about amount of needless suffering, and more a symbolic argument about how toying with people this way disrespects the sanctity of life.
How nice it would be to hold on to the feeling that anything in this world holds life as sacred.
Virgilia butts in:
Virgilia: ………………That is why the Endless Magic is known as a black art. …An Endless Witch has no concept of the finite. ……They have no concept of the finite, of the end that is implied by breaking and killing.
It’s interesting, this notion of the immortal who becomes detached from the social dogma because nothing has real consequences. (A similar character, with a similar narrative, appeared in for example Ousama Ranking which I watched recently.) I don’t think I really buy it. After all, nobody is immortal, we can’t actually know how an immortal being would think. It could be read perhaps as an attempt to rationalise death: to say, without that inevitability, we would become monsters, or lose our drive to struggle, so it’s good really, or at least a necessary evil.
Well, anyway, Beato here seems to be learning, so perhaps the prospects for immortals aren’t so bad after all? Meanwhile… Virgilia declares that she deliberately refused to climb to Beatrice’s level, out of the fear for how it would affect her psychology.
Beato: ……I had always been told not to break vases. ……But that’s what made me want to break them someday.
………Then, when I gained the Endless Magic, …and I learned that I could fix it back to normal no matter how much I broke it, ……I was surprised at how fun it was to break a vase…
In short, the thrill of the taboo. Didn’t Bataille say something about that being the foundation of eroticism or something?
Battler asks a very interesting question:
This is a hell of a thing for Battler, the magic-denier to ask! Seems tantamount to resigning the game, but if called on it, well, it’s just playing along with a hypothetical.
In any case, this is a question I have sometimes felt drawn to—not for Endless Magic but for things like uranium. ‘Why’ does the capacity to create a nuclear bomb exist in the world? Or, for that matter, why is almost all life subject to so much pain and suffering?
This might seem like a funny thing to ask. After all, the great edifice of Science is a claim that if you start with certain ‘simple’, abstract geometric axioms that give you things like relativity and quantum field theory, and we can build our way up to even something like ‘an “atom” exists with this many protons and neutrons, and is unstable, and can be caused to split creating a neutron with this much energy’ in a series of deductive steps from the axioms. The existence of ‘pain’ is a valuable tool for motivating certain behaviours in replicating structures.
But that doesn’t satisfy the emotional drive of the question. It’s like, why do things have to be as bad as they are? It’s the sort of question a dismayed child asks on discovering what sort of world they’ve been born into. The Christians call it the ‘Problem of Evil’, and it’s a major headache for them. Other religions seem to have an easier time with this question, and even make impermanence and suffering the heart of the whole deal, like in Buddhism.
For atheists… well the usual answer is to say, there is no purpose. The question is null; an inappropriate application of teleology to a system which was not designed, and simply is. And yet… it still feels like it has some weight. We could imagine a world with a slightly different physics which does not allow anyone to create a nuclear bomb; we could imagine a world where things are much much worse. ‘Why’ did we end up with the one that actually exists?
Anyway, here’s Virgilia’s answer:
Virgilia: It is not limited to the Endless Magic. …All magic exists to bring happiness to the human world.
……After everything that has happened, it may be difficult for you to believe, Battler-kun, ……but we witches train in order to bring blessings to the human world, to become a bridge between humans and those who are not human.
Endless Magic exists mostly to repair valuable broken things like vases, she says. Battler immediately turns this on Beato to tell her she fails as an Endless Witch. Wow burn lmao.
While he’s on this introspective line, he asks a question we’ve had on our minds for a while…
Battler: ……There’s something that’s just come to me. ………Why do I keep going on with this strange game against you?
……Maybe this isn’t a game to make me submit. ……Couldn’t it be a test for you to be accepted as an Endless Witch, in its true meaning?
Huh, interesting theory. I don’t think that’s quite it though. Beatrice claims it was just a way to kill time for her. Battler continues to lay in…
Battler: ……This was supposedly a fight between a witch and a human. In that case, someone like you, who isn’t a witch, is not qualified to be my opponent. ………Understand?
Damn, Beato’s really going through it this episode. “yeah, fuck her, I heard she wasn’t even a witch anyway, yaknow?” “lmao that biiiiitccch”
Beato responds with full on 🥺 pleading emoji face.
She really does not have an easy time with rejection, huh. Fascinating how this game has gone from just a flex on Battler to seemingly the only thing giving her life meaning at this point.
Battler still isn’t having it. He says, come back when you’re a real witch. He informs Virgilia that he will suspend the game until Beato gains ‘the qualifications of a proper opponent.’ I guess Virgilia has just kind of slipped into being the refugee.
Battler, she’s already dead!!
Anyway, Beato asks for time and ‘a place to think at a leisurely pace.’
Battler tells her to stop making the dejected face (lol, finally noticing she has feelings?). Beato says she can’t…
Beato: …………………….Sorry about that. Letting everything inside my heart show up on my face is part of my personality. I cannot deceive.
Battler: In that case, there’s hope for you yet. ………Let me promise you one thing. In this game with you, I might win, and I might lose. It’s also possible that it’ll be a victory by default for me if you don’t come back.
………However, I definitely won’t be the one to step down. I definitely won’t give you a victory by default. I will keep waiting here, for you to sit there again as my worthy opponent.
Beatrice confirms it’s a date (not in so many words), and we return to the narrative, a little peace in Purgatorio. Gotta say, Battler has grown up a lot in quite a short space of time. Bless him.
Meanwhile, Eva Beatrice didn’t attack the expedition to discover the bodies, and they have made it back to the guesthouse and barricaded it up. Krauss is remaining rather stoic, imagining lines of attack like setting fire to the guesthouse. Eva is still feverish, but putting on a brave face for George. The adults are downstairs, as a first line of defence, and the children are upstairs. We get some sepia-toned palm trees as George reminesces about a holiday with Sayo to Okinawa.
We get a bit more George characterisation. Naturally there’s some gender roles in it. You can totally feel the beat where the だから is about to come.
After meeting Shannon, George had made the decision to be reborn.
He had sworn to eparate himself from the timid person he had once been: easily caught up in the atmosphere, unable to refuse a request, and easily used by those around him.
……He had resolved himself to become a strong man who would make her life even more joyous.
So. …If he hadn’t met Shannon, ……the man called Ushiromiya George would probably have lived a very different life.
And the George of that different life surely wouldn’t have been as excellent a man as he now was.
Thus, with Sayo gone, he feels like his entire personality has become meaningless. Honestly, even if Sayo hadn’t died, that seems like a big risk factor. That’s a lot of weight for one girl to carry. What happens when Sayo is something other than the perfect moe wife of George’s dreams?
Anyway, now she’s dead, he decides not to consider killing himself, and instead thank her for the time they had. And, ah. Well. I think I understand that one.. Man… Fuck.
George feels that grieving her any more would make her grieve in heaven, so he shouldn’t, but can’t help it. I guess I’ve had the opposite attitude: I wanted to prove with my expression of grief just how much Fall meant to me. I became afraid it would disrespect her to return to my life.
The kids have a chat about grief. Jessica raises the point of how this kind of sudden, unexpected death denies you the chance to prepare and soften the blow. She’s right. The regrets are so hard. Things left unsaid and undone. In any case, the thought of lifelong grief is raised, and the conversation turns to Mr. Kinzo…
Interestingly, the kids seem to be on board with the idea that it is Beatrice, Kinzo’s long lost lover, who is doing the murders. George has a sense of sympathy for Kinzo:
George: ………Even if his sin of defying life’s providence was punished by God, and his body was burnt and sent down to hell, …and even if the reunion he got in return only lasted a very short time…
Jessica: George nii-san…
George: ……I wouldn’t care if I met with the wrath of God and had my body burned. ………Even if it was just for a short amount of time, ……if I could revive Shannon again, ………………I would sacrifice the rest of my life to the same research as Grandfather.
……Five minutes would be enough, ……I just want to talk with Shannon again… ……Even one minute would be fine…… ……In exchange, …I wouldn’t mind…… sacrificing the rest of my life……!
Fun fact: so far as I can tell, all these long ellipses I’ve been transcribing come in multiples of 3 dots. I think they may well be using the Unicode … character. That’s some weirdly specific attention to detail.
Honestly, with all these scenes of characters emoting really hard, and explaining in great detail why they’re feeling what they’re feeling, this is such an autistic fucking game. I appreciate it. It’s like a little clockwork model.
In first person narration, George states explicitly that he now believes magic exists, and would no longer deride the occult. He wishes to have magic of his own to meet Shannon again.
George old chap, I dare say your wish will be granted before too long, the way things have been going.
However, George cuts himself off with the argument that if reviving the dead was possible with magic, people would be doing it all over the place. Feeling awkward, he leaves to get coffee. The narration follows him downstairs. Which means he’s almost certainly about to discover the bodies of Krauss and Natsuhi by my guess.
Is Nanjo going to be one of the survivors? That would be funny.
Hmm, no, instead, George becomes convinced he needs to see Sayo’s face before her she’s taken away for cremation. The ring thing comes up again. I believe she is currently left back in the mansion, so I guess George is next to go out and die. I think Eva Beatrice has specific hatred towards him as the symbol of her alter’s adulthood, so this could be Bad…
He jumps to a further conclusion: because (allegedly) cremation is unpopular in the Western tradition except for criminals who want to be given permadeath, and burial is preserved, it’s likely that Westerners knew of a way to revive the dead if a body isn’t burned. Hmm.
George wishes he could make a deal with Beatrice, same as Kinzo did. It turns out Beato is there, invisibly observing this narrative. Guess she decided to manifest in here after ducking out of Purgatorio? She’s here to attempt to study humans and meet Battler’s demand, and gets the idea of reviving Sayo to satisfy George’s wish and thereby earn Battler’s approval.
We note that Beato has handed over most of her magical power to Eva Beatrice, but still holds on to some.
This chapter is a kishōtenketsu, isn’t it?
- 起句 (introduction)
- Virgilia and Ronove attempt to get Battler to play with Beato again. Battler says that Beatrice’s problem is she doesn’t understand grief.
- 承句 (development)
- Battler learn’s Virgilia’s definition of witches, and declares that Beatrice is not really a witch, and he won’t play until she qualifies.
- 転句 (‘twist’ i.e. seemingly unrelated element)
- George is grieving Sayo, and wishes for a miracle so he can see her again.
- 結句 (conclusion/result/consequence)
- Beato manifests and uses her powers to try to help George.
Once you see it, it really is everywhere…
So what does she do? She uses a ‘weak’ spell which only works with the aid of others, and ‘calls out to George’s heart’. This results in a conversation in some kind of pocket…
Guess it’s time for another person to get magic! This is starting to feel like the point in KotOR II when you start to catch on that every single member of your party is force sensitive.
The narration notes that George has an easier time accepting the presence of a witch inside his mind, like in a dream. Moreover, Beato notes that because he is strongly conscious of her and wants to talk, that enables their ‘channels’ to ‘match’. George says, whether or not she’s the one who killed Sayo, he’s willing to beg…
George: …………I would pay any compensation. …If you desire my life, you can take it right now. ……Please, I want you to bring SHannon back to life… ………If that’s impossible, then at least, I would like just to be allowed to talk to her for a short while…… ……Please………
Beatrice says, I’ll do it for free, but grant me some magic power. George is like, oh, so you want me to commit suicide then? He’s really in that pit. Beato says that actually, all she needs is to channel his strong feelings for Sayo to lift her out of Hades.
Beato: …But as I am now, I do not have the power to bring Shannon’s soul up through that gap. ………However, if it were you, who has strong feelings for Shannon, you should be able to change those feelings into magic, and bring her soul out without fail.
I am pretty sure the invocation of Hades is metaphorical here. I don’t think every time Beato killed and resurrected someone they had to be whisked past a series of procedurally generated dungeons and colourful bosses. Though that would be pretty funny.
Beato manifests in the physical world. There is a quiet howling-wind sound effect. She warns that she won’t be able to maintain this form if any more humans appear. Which means getting out of the guesthouse is a problem! But Beato can open the window and shutter with magic, and takes flight, and George is in a state of mind where he believes in magic, so it seems he can take flight as well.
They get a chance to reuse the stormclouds bg. Beato warns George not to think about the ‘doctrines’ of Newton and Einstein. So… full Road Runner logic, gravity only exists when you believe in it! This warning seems like it might be counterproductive, but George apparently takes it on board, intoning ‘I accept it as true’. For him, presumably because this is the best way he has to parse it, flying requires similar motions to swimming.
We cut to Eva Beatrice. She’s plotting how to attack the guest house, which probably means George and Beato have managed to slip away unnoticed! That’s lucky. She picks Krauss and Natsuhi as targets. The Chiesters immediately set to work measuring the ‘anti-magic power’, and find it pathetic.
Eva Beatrice takes the opportunity to get in a few digs at the ‘old, second-hand’ Lucifer. Ronove is also there. She declares her intent to play with the corpses. This seems to be a slight jump back, because she briefly gets the peripheral sense of ‘a presence’ leaving the guesthouse. The Chiesters are too tunnel-visioned to notice, and Ronove covers for Beato. EB has her doubts, but lets it slide.
Interesting… Ronove may officially have been remanded to the new Beatrice, but personally it seems his loyalty definitely lies with Beato.
And with that… we reach the end of the chapter. The next one is called Real Magic.
Well well well, pieces are in motion. Beato can sure act fast when she puts her mind to it. We might get Sayo back, which would be pretty cool.
So, some predictions. I think that would be fun.
Firstly, I think now that Eva (at least Eva Beatrice), George and Kyrie have unlocked their magic, it isn’t going away. Both because that would be repetitive, and because the servants carried over their laser swords from the previous game.
Secondly, I don’t think Eva Beatrice is going to remain the Beatrice of this joint for long. The reason for this is mostly that she’s a rather one-note character: she’s sadistic, petty, resentful and refuses to grow up, and that’s about it. Meanwhile, this episode has invested heavily in showing us a new side of Beato.
I think the climax of this episode is going to be Beato taking back the Beatrice title—possibly with the help of Battler, which would be an very entertaining turn. As far as magical power goes, the Ushiromiya family seem to be big deals. Eva Beatrice surpassed her predecessor in no time flat, and even George learned to fly within minutes.
Why, exactly, this gaggle of aristocrats should be so brimming with magical power, I’m not yet sure. But perhaps with a clever play, George’s battery of magic power, Beato’s skill, the talents of a few resurrected characters, and a suitable betrayal by the old worn-out furniture, it might be possible to overcome even the overwhelming force of the Chiesters.
It’s not clear to me how resurrecting a sacrifice affects the resurrection ritual, but presumably it would be very disruptive! The whole point of a sacrifice is giving something up. If you take the offerings off the alter again, I’m pretty sure that negates it!
George’s love for Sayo is magic sufficient to resurrect her. Well, Sayo cares a lot about Kanon, and fully believes in magic, so could she bring Kanon back? As for the rest of the deceased, might not be so easy. I’m pretty sure we’re going to at least see Sayo come back, after all that buildup, but I’m not sure if she’ll survive to be part of the final showdown this episode, or just be part of a brief scene with George before both are killed again by Eva Beatrice. Then again, with EB lining up a shot on Krauss and Natsuhi, there’s not a lot of time.
As for where this is all driving… that’s a tough one to puzzle out, all right! I think the parameters of the contest between humans and witch are going to change pretty significantly. Which would be good, I’m not sure how many times we’d want to go through the same beats of ‘arrive on Rokkenjima, learn about the riddle, grieve a series of murders, argue about whodunnit’ before getting into the meat of the episode. We’ve already seen a few attempts to resist Beato in combat. I’m not sure if puzzling out locked rooms is a thing of the past or what.
One interesting question might be if somehow Battler was able to connect his agency in purgatorio with his agency in the narrative, same as Beato. If he could actively investigate, taking advantage of the known rules of magic, he could place his avatar in such a way as to disrupt Beato’s murders.
I have unfortunately been slightly spoiled...
I saw Battler deploy blue text in a screenshot, suggesting that he will at some point gain the power to axiomatise statements similar to Beato. But that raises plenty of intriguing questions, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out.
Is Beato’s face turn going to last? If so, what will be the main antagonistic force? We’ve thrown some balls into the air in regards to intergenerational trauma which I think are going somewhere, but right now we’re focused on the mechanics of ‘what is magic’, so those broader themes are to some degree on the back burner.
We still don’t really know what the hell was going on at Kuwadorian: who was this girl who Kinzo was raising to believe she was the witch Beatrice?
It seems likely now that Virgilia inherited the title Beatrice from whoever it was that loved Kinzo and gave him the gold—the original golden-haired woman of the portrait. If we decide to believe that homunculi are real, Beato is basically Kinzo’s first, failed attempt to remake his lover, related to his experiments with the -on servants. But equally she could be a child of his, or a girl he kidnapped. Regardless, it seems likely that inbetween her childhood with the broken vase and her death, she went through a process of ascension similar to what we saw in Eva Beatrice. Perhaps she actually found the gold? I guess we’ll find out. As for Virgilia, who is this lady, where did she come from?
I feel like, much as I’d like to be able to guess the whole arc out from here, I still have relatively few concrete predictions. So, onwards to the next chapter. I feel like we must be only a few chapters from the end of Episode 3 at this rate, so get hype!!